I arrived here in Japan on a December 30th. I was wearing a thin threadbare coat that never promised to provide much warmth. Near the bus stop there was a sign that indicated the temperature: 55 degrees. It wasn’t bad for my first day of a serious winter.
I was born in Cuba, and from when I was very young, I felt like I was blind. My childhood wasn’t particularly unhappy, but I felt lost. I wanted something that wasn’t in front of me, yet it seemed like the horizon was too imposing to believe something was behind it.
I grew up in a neighborhood of Havana far from downtown. It was one of the neighborhoods made up of dozens of simple and uninspired apartment buildings constructed to deal with the housing needs of thousands of poor people back in the 1970s.
I travel quite a bit with my wife. These are just short trips to nearby cities here in Japan, but they’re really invigorating.
Having friends has always been a very vital part of my life. Within a short time after arriving in Japan I had already met a group of my wife’s friends. Later I found out that this was unusual, since people here are not accustomed to having many friends.
At the beginning, many saw the Revolution as no more than a solution to end a bloody dictatorship that was smothering a good portion of the population. But it became more ambitious, first declaring itself the enemy of imperialism wherever it went, and then declaring itself socialist.
Other myths began breaking down while I noticed that, yes, I could live in this place in the middle of a country so different from the one in which I had lived for 34 years. Likewise, I could have an Internet connection for the first time and connect with friends outside of Cuba.
It’s very common to hear people in Cuba say that under capitalism you really have to work because everything is invented there. In this are two meanings: the first is that you can live without working in Cuba, or at least without seriously working.
I got married Japanese style, dressed in a kimono and in a Shinto temple. Neither I nor my wife is religious, so if you asked us why we had such a wedding, I’m sure neither of us could give you a coherent answer.
It’s just that in Cuba you develop – if you’re not a complete idiot – a sense to always look for the essential, which at the moment was to have a nice evening with my wife. I don’t know where that ability comes from to discern what is real within the mind-boggling shit one encounters when you’re so poor.